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PUTIN’S FLATLINING ECONOMY

SERGEI GURIEV

November 5, 2020

Project Syndicate

 

Protracted economic stagnation and a much higher COVID-19 mortality rate than is being officially reported in Russia mean that President Vladimir Putin cannot base his regime’s legitimacy on quality-of-life improvements. This suggests that more censorship, propaganda, and foreign adventurism are to be expected.

PARIS – In recent weeks, macroeconomic forecasters have presented new, more optimistic global predictions for 2020 and 2021. Given the rising second wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths in much of the world, grimmer forecasts are likely to replace them soon. But even the relatively sanguine current outlooks provide little hope for economies like Russia, which was stagnating well before the pandemic.

To be sure, on September 30, Russia’s Ministry of Economy published a relatively sanguine official forecast: its baseline scenario is that GDP will contract by 3.9% in 2020, but will average 3.2% annual growth in 2021-23. Yet the ministry has a track record of being excessively optimistic.

Russia’s Accounts Chamber – another government agency, led by former finance minister Aleksei Kudrin – criticized the Ministry of Economy’s bright forecast. The Accounts Chamber has a far more somber outlook: a 4.5% decline in GDP in 2020, and average annual growth of only 2-2.2% in 2021-23. This is more closely aligned with the International Monetary Fund’s expectation of a 4.1% drop in 2020, and 2.4% annual growth in 2021-23 (slowing down to 1.8% by 2025).

The reason for the discrepancy among these forecasts is entirely political. When President Vladimir Putin began his current term in May 2018, he promised a rate of GDP growth higher than the world average, thereby expanding Russia’s share of the global economic pie. This is not a particularly ambitious target for a middle-income country. But Russia has failed to achieve it – and not just because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Well before the pandemic began, a broad consensus had emerged among Russia watchers that without institutional reforms, annual GDP growth rates would remain stuck at around 1.5-2% – lower than global growth. Putin’s government was clearly unwilling and unable to undertake such reforms. As a result, IMF forecasters have made clear, Russia’s share of the global economy – whether calculated in nominal terms or adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) – will continue to shrink in the coming years.

This clearly precludes Putin’s other much-hyped economic goal: to become one of the world’s top-five economies. In nominal terms, Russia remains the world’s 11th-largest economy, and is unlikely to break into the top ten in the foreseeable future. So Putin has been aiming to make Russia a top-five economy in PPP terms – a metric commonly used for evaluating living standards, not an economy’s overall size.

This goal would seem eminently achievable: in 2019, Russia ranked sixth in the world in PPP terms. No more. According to the IMF’s latest forecast, Russia will continue to lag behind Germany – which currently holds the fifth spot – in the coming years.

At this point, not even Putin can pretend that Russia has a chance of cracking the top five, and he dropped the goal in July, blaming the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, the entire world is confronting the same crisis, which implies that relative goals shouldn’t be affected.

Putin also announced that the 2024 deadlines for the targets he had set in 2018 were now shifted to 2030. Even here, the COVID-19 crisis is a poor excuse. After all, it is not as if Russia has implemented strict nationwide lockdown measures, temporarily sacrificing growth for the sake of public health. Putin did announce a six-week “non-working holiday” last spring. But the state offered very limited economic support for small businesses and households during this quasi-lockdown. Totaling about 1% of GDP, Russia’s measures were an order of magnitude less than what the United States and Europe provided.

Unlike their Western counterparts when they faced lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, Russians thus had little choice but to continue working – a fact borne out by Google mobility data. Putin then ended the partial lockdown early, in order to hold the vote on amending the Russian constitution to remove presidential term limits, thereby ensuring that he would never have to leave office.

 

 

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УКРАЇНСЬКИЙ НАЦІОНАЛІСТ З АФРИКИ

З глибокою пошаною до наших батьків ідеології українського націоналізму Тараса Шевченка, Миколи Міхновського, Дмитра Донцова, Осипа Горнового та багато інших пишу хіба свою національну єресь, хоча на мою думку вона не заперечує на сто відсотків їхні пропоновані істини чи глибше філософічно політичне мислення, а радше впроваджує український націоналізм на більш гнучкий, а то і ліберальний світогляд. Боюся того слова бо в українській діаспорі слово лібералізм це червона плахта.  Зрештою я повинен признатися, що правда я мав труднощі ще з студентських років з великою частиною ідеологічного насвітлення інтегрального націоналізму Дмитра Донцова і ці непогодження актуальні досі хоч я визнаю величезну роль Дмитра Донцова у розбудові української нації 1920-30 років.

 

Кілька днів тому назад завітав принагідно на нашу родинну оселю у штаті Ню Джерзі в США чоловік котрий привіз для моєї дружини продукт який вона закупила через Інтернет. Це не було особливе призначення для нього а рутинне як для заробітчанина який виконував послуги для фірми Амазон.  Наша оселя зветься Говерля, так як у Карпатах. Передаючи пакунок він зауважив Тризуб який блищав на заді машини мого сина і запитався у моєї дружини, що це означає.  Дружина почала відповідати але він її зупинив з усмішкою та запевненням в українській мові, що він знає дуже добре, що він студіював на Київському університеті, здобув там два дипломи бакалавра і магістерський та що він дуже любить ту країну і почуває себе українцем, хоч він тепер у США. Коротка розмова по українському завершилася тим, що моя дружина поздоровила його словами “до побачення”, а він відповів з усмішкою “Слава Україні”. Мабуть до опису цієї зустрічі треба додати, що новий знайомий є темношкірим з Африки.

 

Я з ним не зустрічався але настрій моєї дружини і її переповідання вплинуло на мене і я подумав, от коли б білошкірі з Києва були такими щирими українськими патріотами, які пишалися своїм гербом, так гарно розмовляли своєю рідною мовою та висловлювали свою любов до України. Для мене він український націоналіст.

 

Я давно прийшов до переконання, що людина мимо слів великого поета Василя Симоненка вибирає свою батьківщину. Ніколи не забуду ранній період української держави коли зокрема на Західній Україні, і то у княжому Львові виростали мудрагелі, один більший патріот чим другий. Тоді навіть ставили такі пропозиції, одні про аналіз крові, а другі про аналіз свого родоводу, щоби довести свою чисту українську національність. Я і тоді думав, що це була забава, а то і блукання молодості. На жаль багато цієї молоді як показалось дуже мало дала новій Україні, а деякі просто стали екстремістами які натомість зробили не мало поганого для світового розвитку тої держави.

 

Трохи простої філософії. Людина є продуктом свого часу. Немає сумніву, що кожне покоління було оформлене мислити обставинами свого часу. Сьогоднішні живі люди, а тим більше, наймолодші покоління знаходяться у глобальному світі. Все має глобальне значення бо події сьогодні у Білорусі чи Нагорному Карабазі є рівночасно на екрані по цілому світу, а продукти приходять з найдальших куточків. Контакт є моментальний, а до-ставка тільки кілько добова. Людина яка уважає себе зімкнутою тільки своїм близьким оточенням є або параноїком або свідомо обмежує і обманює себе.

 

Постає питання. Чи у сьогоднішньому глобальному суспільстві є місце для націоналістів? А якщо так то яке є практичне значіння того слова? Перший крок до аналізи це зрозуміння, що націоналіст є антиподом до самолюба, людини котра думає тільки про себе. Націоналізм це ідеологія де домінує ідея і духовність, а не не матерія, де ідея добра не власного, а національного переважає, до тої міри, що власне життя стає другорядним коли мислити про життя своєї нації. Це основа Християнського етичного світогляду віддати себе за ближнього.

 

Наш темношкірий друг з Києва теж уважає себе українцем. Це його вибір. Він цей вибір приймав добровільно з різних причин відомих тільки його. Його батьки не були українцями, але він є. Тому що він любить Україну, говорить її рідною мовою та пишається її національною символікою, для мене він український націоналіст. Тут не потрібно глибшої політичної філософії. Може для Дмитра Донцова у нього бракує певних елементів українського націоналізму. Але для мене вистарчає. Я думаю, що з тим погодився б Тарас Григорович хоч він жив 200 років тому і світ тоді був зовсім інакшим. Людина є тим чим вона є у своїй душі. Так завжди було! Ну скажіть, що я перебільшив трохи називаючи його українським націоналістом. Але з малого все починається,а  у нашого українського націоналіста з Африки не мало а аж два українські дипломи і то не з будь якого університету, а з Київського імені Тараса Шевченка.

 

3 грудня 2020 року                                       Аскольд С. Лозинський

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UKRAINE MILITARY INTEL REPORTS ON NUMBER OF RUSSIAN INVADERS IN OCCUPIED DONBAS

 30.11.20

UNIAN

 

Occupation forces are staffed by up to 80%.

 

Some 35,500 of Russian-controlled military oppose Ukrainian troops in the occupied Donbas, the Ukrainian military intelligence reports.

 

That’s according to Vadym Skybystky, a representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) at Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.

 

Commenting on the latest mobilization readiness checks by the Russian occupation administration, Skybytsky noted that the rear and support units are seen as best staffed.

 

“The issue with mobilization resources was reported during inspections of army corps 1 and army corps 2 by the Russian General Staff’s commission. The shortcomings revealed are being urgently eliminated,” the Ukrainian official added.

 

Ukraine’s military intelligence says a 35,500-strong Russian occupation force is deployed in the Donbas. Some 3,000 regular military personnel of the Russian Armed Forces are serving with the 1st and 2nd army corps.

 

At the same time, Ukrainian military intelligence says there is an ongoing outflow of soldiers from the occupation forces’ units, as well as a shrinking mobilization resource.

 

Ukraine’s GUR explains that this is due to the difficult social and economic conditions in the occupied region, where many leave to find jobs elsewhere, including in Russia. In this regard, Russian security officials are making efforts to block male citizens aged 18 to 50 from crossing into Russia.

 

According to intelligence, occupation forces in the Donbas are staffed by up to 80%.

 

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NAFTOGAZ REFORMS IN DANGER

Ukraine Alert

by Diane Francis

Nov 30, 2020

 

Energy giant Naftogaz is the corporate governance poster child among Ukraine’s many state-owned enterprises. Since 2014, it has transitioned from fraud-riddled drain on government finances to a profitable business model complete with good governance. Along the way, Naftogaz also extricated itself from the Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs who used it to enrich themselves, and signed an important gas transit contract with Gazprom after winning billions of dollars in court from the Russian company.

 

“Naftogaz is a clean corporation. We have cleaned up corruption,” says Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev. “Five years ago, the Naftogaz deficit was USD 6.5 billion, which came out of the Ukrainian budget. Our contribution now represents 20 percent of total government revenues. We set up an independent Supervisory Board to undertake corporate governance reform, which is what the IMF, EBRD, and OECD asked for. We are audited by Deloitte and KPMG.”

 

Despite these stellar achievements, or perhaps because of them, Naftogaz is now a major target. Along with the country’s other anti-corruption success stories, it is coming under pressure from malevolent forces intent on recapturing state enterprises and turning back the clock.

 

In recent months, attempts by Ukrainian judges, government officials, and politicians to unravel reforms and harass reformers have captured headlines. Kobolyev says he is also personally coming under attack. “There have been bribery attempts and some direct threats. There are a number of cases currently with the police and a couple of ongoing investigations. I also have extensive security.”

 

One recent challenge came via the State Audit Service of Ukraine, which alleged the company was guilty of “high treason” for accounting irregularities, even though Naftogaz has an independent Supervisory Board and meets international auditing standards. The scurrilous allegations made bond investors nervous and forced the company to cancel two major bond offerings planned for this year.

 

Then, in early October, Amos Hochstein, a ranking member of Naftogaz’s independent Supervisory Board, quit after an attempt was made to shoehorn a director onto the Board who had worked for the corrupt Yanukovych regime. Hochstein explained his resignation and issued a warning about ongoing interference. “Unfortunately, Naftogaz management’s successful efforts to create a new corporate culture, transparent mechanisms, and adherence to international standards, were resisted at every step of the way. The company has been forced to spend endless amounts of time combating political pressure and efforts by oligarchs to enrich themselves through questionable transactions,” he wrote. “The sooner the government of Ukraine internalizes this fact, the stronger Ukraine will be. Failing to do so will imperil Ukraine’s quest to build a strong, democratic, and free country.”

 

Despite these concerns, Kobolyev says much was accomplished during the first year of cooperation with President Zelenskyy’s government. “First came unbundling. Then we signed a huge deal with Gazprom for USD 7.2 billion, and managed to collect all the money they owed to us. This August, the government did what Naftogaz has been fighting to achieve for five years, by removing certification [to intermediaries controlled by exiled gas oligarch Dmytro Firtash] that made households free to choose their energy supplier. This was a big step forward and the government should be given due credit.”

 

“On the negative side is the departure of Hochstein and attacks on our corporate governance system. This is very negative and is playing out now. It affects the company in a big way and leaked into the press right before our Eurobond issue. Our investors withdrew their commitment to buy bonds the same day. Another report [by the State Audit Service] claiming Naftogaz should pay more dividends was also damaging. This is not something critical for us in terms of financing our debt portfolio, but it’s very negative,” he says.

 

Kobolyev hopes the new US administration will continue supporting Ukrainian reform efforts, and suggests Kyiv double-down on reforms by removing all state control that is no longer necessary, while ignoring politically-motivated criticism. “The government should allow [Naftogaz’s] existing Supervisory Board members to find a replacement for Hochstein, then propose that replacement to the shareholder [the government] for final approval,” he says. “That is the most appropriate and most rational approach. Not only Hochstein has left, but two more independent members’ terms will expire in December. There is no indication from the government regarding what it wants. It must make clear to Supervisory Board members that their contracts are extended.”

 

The Naftogaz CEO believes recent attacks against the company are due to “political pressure from people like Firtash” who lost his stranglehold on domestic gas distribution in August. Kobolyev also accuses Ukrainian politicians including Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Medvedchuk, who oppose the unbundling process, of being Kremlin proxies “following the Russian narrative”. “If unbundling is considered illegal, then Gazprom will be free not to honor their obligation under the transit contract signed in December 2019,” he points out. “They don’t bother themselves with complex arguments on behalf of Ukraine.”

 

Looking ahead, Kobolyev says the long-term objective remains to privatize Naftogaz. “We have offered this to the government and the PM has agreed that Naftogaz should become a publicly-listed company within three years. We are preparing to do that. We are working on this every day. We would like to list on the New York Stock Exchange and we already meet the audit and corporate governance requirements,” he says.

 

Kobolyev was recently in Washington to meet with Congressional leaders from both parties who support anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine as well as sanctions to halt Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. Tougher sanctions have been proposed and are included in the upcoming US defense budget. If adopted, they are expected to permanently halt construction of the incomplete pipeline.

 

“We haven’t won yet. The Russians have redesigned one of their own ships and are trying to get construction back on track. In order to stop them, there should be improved wording in the proposed sanctions law,” he says. “This wording is critically important to block the pipeline. So far, we are 95 percent towards stopping Nord Stream 2. We need the last five percent to insure the project is finally dead.”

 

Kobolyev hopes the new US administration will continue to support Ukraine, including backing for gas market reform and corporate governance reform. When asked how optimistic he is about the future of Naftogaz, he hedges. “I’m not ready to give such an assessment. It would just be a wild guess. But if I was not optimistic, I would have already resigned.”

 

Diane Francis is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, Editor at Large with the National Post in Canada, a Distinguished Professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, and author of ten books.

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WHO ENVOY TO UKRAINE WARNS OF DIFFICULT WINTER AHEAD, OPTIMISTIC ABOUT VACCINE

By Bermet Talant

Nov. 30, 2020

Kyiv Post

 

The first time Jarno Habicht, head of the World Health Organization’s office in Ukraine, spoke with the Kyiv Post was back in mid-April.   The COVID-19 pandemic was just taking hold around the world, and Ukraine was under strict lockdown imposed by the authorities proactively. At the time, the country had about 4,600 cases in total and 116 deaths.   Now, as Habicht speaks to the Kyiv Post again seven months later, the situation is very different.

Ukraine is still fighting its first wave of the pandemic. As of Nov. 30, there were over 732,000 coronavirus cases in the country and over half of them were active. The death toll is more than 10 times what it was in April, having reached over 12,300 people.

Testing laboratories have struggled with the spike in demand, and hospitals have reported shortages of beds, medical oxygen and oxygen concentrators and medical workers. And as the winter holidays are approaching, the Ukrainian government is considering imposing a new lockdown.

Habicht warns that the next three to four months will be difficult for the economy and health care.  “We are moving to a life-saving mode,” he told the Kyiv Post in an interview on Nov. 24. “We have to save as many lives as possible, and at the same time keep life going, the economy running and schools open.”

This is a challenge.  The WHO regularly releases guidance on public health and social measures based upon the virus transmission level that governments can take into consideration. The organization recommends a targeted response at the local level.

Ukraine switched from a so-called “adaptive quarantine” to uniform nationwide measures and introduced a “weekend lockdown” on Nov. 11, ordering non-essential businesses to close on Saturdays and Sundays. The move faced significant resistance from local authorities and business owners, just like the adaptive quarantine in August.

Despite warnings of a looming collapse of the health care system, the Ukrainian authorities were reluctant to re-impose full lockdown, citing its heavy burden on the economy. But as caseloads continued to grow rapidly, they reportedly began to consider a full lockdown before or after New Year’s Eve.

Habicht says Ukraine is not unique in this situation. Israel, Germany, Spain, the UK and other European countries tried to target virus hotspots, but had to switch to some type of nationwide restrictions. Over the past two months, they reimposed partial or full lockdowns and night curfews to fight the virus’ resurgence. In response, anti-lockdown protests broke out. 

In many countries, the central and local authorities have been engaged in an ongoing debate over the measures, he says. And the leaders are seeking some kind of compromise.  “It is much more complex now than we thought it would be in the beginning of this year,” he says. “We now have to look at the public health and education, public health and the economy, public health and livelihoods.”

More measures

Looking at Ukraine’s response to the epidemic, Habicht says additional measures should be considered, but only those that are implementable.  “Measures are as good as they are enforced,” he says.

He says there should be more restrictions on social contacts, especially with people outside of one’s household. Essential work should continue, but safety measures for workers should be in place. Remote work should be allowed where it is possible. Keeping in-person learning for as long as possible is crucial.

And, of course, the most basic rules need to be further communicated.  “More could be done in explaining to the public why hand washing and masks are important, and why masks have to cover both mouth and nose,” Habicht says.

Habicht also encouraged the Ukrainian authorities to introduce legislation on contact tracing and issue guidance for businesses and citizens for the upcoming winter holidays.  “The sooner we have this guidance, the better. We will know how to plan and adjust our lives,” he says. “We need to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve but, of course, have to do it differently.”

Habicht stresses the role every individual plays in fighting the pandemic.   “It is on us to make a decision not to have large gatherings on holidays, connect with friends and family via video conferences, wear masks correctly, and keep a physical distance.”

Vaccine hopes

It’s not all bad news.   Almost a year into the pandemic, scientists, public health professionals and doctors know more about the novel coronavirus, how it spreads, and the disease it causes.  The virus spreads quickly in crowded indoor spaces with poor or no ventilation, and measures such as avoiding such settings, maintaining physical distance and using masks help prevent transmission.

Testing has improved and increased, and contact tracing proved effective in detecting and isolating cases in countries where it was implemented.  In November, three vaccine developers — Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford University — reported success in last-stage human trials, boosting hopes that an effective COVID-19 vaccine could be available next year.

Habicht says he is optimistic.  The WHO is waiting for the vaccine authorization by national and regional regulatory agencies where drugmakers have to apply for approval. (On Nov. 30, it was reported that Moderna had applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization of its vaccine.)

At the moment, the WHO, UNICEF (the United Nations agency) and other partners are developing a global distribution plan for the future vaccine under COVAX, an international initiative to provide equal access to a safe vaccine to all countries regardless of their income. The program aims to distribute two billion doses by the end of 2021, and each participating country can get doses for 20% of their population. The first people to receive the vaccine will be frontline and healthcare workers and vulnerable groups such as those with chronic diseases and the elderly.

Over 180 countries have joined the initiative, including Ukraine. Currently, they are developing their own vaccination plans.

Ukraine is hoping to receive eight million doses of the vaccine next year under the COVAX program. The population of Ukraine is between 37 and 42 million people.

Habicht says there is still a question of how many people will be willing to get a vaccine when it becomes widely available beyond the first-priority groups.   “The latest data shows that 58% of Ukrainians believe that a vaccine can help with the outbreak. It is good that over half of the population is thinking about it,” he says, adding there is still “something to work on.”

But vaccines alone can’t stop the pandemic, Habicht says. Public health and social measures have to be in place, hospitals must be prepared, and contact tracing must be implemented.  “Getting out of the pandemic

depends not only on the epidemiological situation but on how well we adjust and enforce certain measures,” he says.  “COVID-19 will stay with us for a while, not only as a disease but in our minds, in the way we work and talk to families.”

 

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U.S., RUSSIA RACE TO OUTFLANK EACH OTHER ON RUSSIAN PIPELINE

New sanctions against Nord Stream 2 could mark a win for Ukrainians who lobbied Washington to quash the Russian pipeline

 

By Brett Forrest

Nov. 29, 2020

The Wall Street Journal

 

For the past year, U.S. officials and Russia hawks on Capitol Hill have closely watched the peregrinations of a Russian ship, as it sailed from Russia’s Far East around Africa to the Baltic Sea.

 

The vessel—a nearly 500-foot pipe-layer named the Akademik Cherskiy—is the sole Russian-owned ship capable of completing an $11 billion pipeline. Nord Stream 2 is designed to carry natural gas under the Baltic from Russia to Germany, but its construction has been stalled for a year by the threat of U.S. sanctions.

 

As the Akademik Cherskiy shuttled between an anchor point off Russia’s Kaliningrad and the German port of Mukran, a staging point for the pipeline, in recent months, U.S. officials readied broader sanctions. Members of Congress agreed this month on measures intended to thwart the Akademik Cherskiy and bury Nord Stream 2.

 

Should those sanctions prevail, it would likely foil a Kremlin-backed project that the U.S. warned will expand Russia’s influence in Europe. It would also mark a win for a pair of Ukrainian officials who saw the pipeline as a threat to their country and worked behind the scenes in Washington to quash it.

 

For four years, the Ukrainians—an energy-company executive and a national-security official—tried to persuade the Trump administration and congressional leaders, who they say were at times indifferent. President Trump’s impeachment, initiated after he asked Ukraine’s president to assist with an investigation into Mr. Trump’s then-presumed presidential rival Joe Biden, also set back their efforts.

 

The Ukrainians’ lobbying and support from Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and other Russia skeptics in Congress produced the hard-won sanctions that brought work on Nord Stream 2 to a standstill a year ago, roughly 100 miles short of completion. Now, the Ukrainians feel they are on the brink of success.

 

The new sanctions will be “the final nail into the coffin of this project,” said Vadym Glamazdin, a government-relations official with Ukraine’s national oil-and-gas company, Naftogaz. “When these sanctions are finally voted and become law, there will be no practical way to build this pipeline.”

 

Both sides are now racing to outflank each other. To finish the pipeline, the Akademik Cherskiy needs to be refitted to handle pipes of greater diameter.

The new sanctions, part of a defense-spending bill, would come into force by the end of the year and target companies that would make those modifications as well as businesses that would insure, test, inspect and certify the pipeline.

 

A Biden administration could take a more lenient approach. Since the sanctions have broad bipartisan support, it would need to expend political capital to waive them.

 

The Akademik Cherskiy’s owner, the Russian gas-export monopoly Gazprom, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Earlier this year, Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said on Russian television that he saw no technological obstacles to completing the pipeline.

 

Last year then-Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told the TASS news agency that Russia would complete the pipeline “with our own funds,” and more recently called the Nord Stream 2 sanctions legislation protectionist.

 

A spokesman for Nord Stream 2 AG, the Swiss-registered, Russian-owned company building the pipeline, said that sanctions threats “affect a large group of Western contractors and investors.” Those companies and Nord Stream 2, he said, “are convinced that the soonest possible commissioning of the pipeline is in the interest of Europe’s energy security.”

 

On Saturday, a Nord Stream 2 AG spokesman told German radio station NDR that pipeline construction would restart in early December with a 1.6-mile stretch in German waters.

 

Until now, the pipeline’s backers have struggled to resume work after that initial battery of sanctions the Ukrainians helped persuade Congress to enact last December.

 

Norwegian company DNV GL this month suspended its monitoring of the testing and preparation of equipment aboard ships installing the pipeline in response to the threat of sanctions, a spokesman said. Laid alongside the original Nord Stream built a decade ago, the new pipeline would allow Russia to bypass a gas-transit network in Ukraine.

 

Gazprom annually pays Ukraine $3 billion to tap the system. Kyiv sees the network and the revenue it brings Moscow as a check against Russia, especially after Moscow seized the Ukrainian region of Crimea and fomented rebellion in the country’s east in 2014.

 

By 2016, when Gazprom pursued plans for Nord Stream 2, Mr. Glamazdin and longtime friend Oleksandr Kharchenko, an official at Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, were determined to stop it. They said they sent letters to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, neither of whom replied.

A Washington contact of Mr. Glamazdin introduced him to Daniel Vajdich, a lobbyist who had worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Vajdich suggested a change in approach.

While working at the Senate, Mr. Vajdich said he helped draft sanctions in response to Russia’s 2014 actions against Ukraine that obliged Exxon Mobil Corp. to exit a venture with Rosneft, depriving the Russian oil company of critical technology and stalling the project.

 

“That was the model we applied to Nord Stream 2,” Mr. Vajdich said. “What do the Russians need that they don’t have?”

 

Messrs. Glamazdin and Kharchenko enlisted Kyiv-based energy think tanks to study Nord Stream 2 for vulnerabilities. In the summer of 2018, a researcher stumbled upon a breakthrough.

 

On an online energy forum, a Moscow energy expert mentioned that neither the Russian state nor any Russian company owned a vessel that could lay pipe at the diameter and depth of Nord Stream 2.

 

“It was a moment,” Mr. Kharchenko said.

 

Since the Baltic seabed still holds unexploded World War II munitions, Denmark prohibits vessels from anchoring in some areas, requiring ships to use an anchorless positioning system.

 

Gazprom had contracted a Swiss firm, Allseas Group SA, whose ship, the Pioneering Spirit, was capable of laying Nord Stream 2 pipes without anchoring. Mr. Glamazdin said he and his partners decided to “go after pipe-laying vessels.”

 

In the Trump administration, some officials were pushing to end an exemption for Nord Stream 2 under a sanctions act passed in 2017 that targeted Iran, North Korea and Russia, according to several former administration officials.

 

Mr. Mnuchin, whose department enforces sanctions, was opposed, these former officials said. “He was a big hang-up at every turning point,” said one.

 

A Treasury Department spokesman declined to comment.

 

In December 2018, Mr. Mnuchin pressed the case against sanctions with Mr. Trump on Air Force One during a flight to Argentina, said one of the former officials. He did so again in September 2019, after Polish President Andrzej Duda urged Mr. Trump to sanction the pipeline in a meeting in New York, the official said.

 

A White House official said, “I‘ve never been a part of a conversation in which the president did not support Nord Stream 2 sanctions.”

 

Mr. Trump castigated German Chancellor Angela Merkel about Nord Stream 2 in several meetings. He sought to use the threat of sanctions to pressure Germany to boost its contribution to NATO’s budget, said the former officials.

After the poisoning of leading Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in August led to calls in Germany to punish Moscow, Ms. Merkel didn’t rule out sanctions on the pipeline, though pressure has since eased. Berlin has said the pipeline would improve Europe’s energy security.

 

Still, within the Trump administration, some doubted that sanctions could scuttle the pipeline, and they believed pressing to do so would antagonize European allies, the former officials said.

 

“We kept flip-flopping,” said one. “We didn’t have the ability to do anything coherent.”

 

The Ukrainians concluded that they would have to turn to Congress. Mr. Vajdich had advised Mr. Cruz on his 2016 presidential campaign and knew him as hawkish on Russia. They went to Mr. Cruz, who then enlisted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), also a Kremlin critic, to co-sponsor Nord Stream 2 legislation.

 

In late-January 2019, a German engineer working on the pipeline said that it would be completed by the end of the year. Mr. Cruz, Ms. Shaheen and staff members drafted a bill to sanction companies assisting Nord Stream 2’s construction, with Allseas as the principal target.

 

Separate versions passed committees in the Senate and House, but then stalled. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) each thought the other chamber would never agree on identical legislation, according to congressional aides.

 

Then in September 2019, the House announced an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. Suddenly, anything related to Ukraine was political, and Nord Stream 2 sanctions risked getting “drawn into the morass of impeachment,” Mr. Cruz said.

 

In October, Allseas’s Pioneering Spirit fed the pipeline into Danish waters. “It was clear we were running out of time,” Mr. Cruz said.

 

One option was the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual Pentagon spending bill and last-minute sanctuary for measures that hadn’t elsewhere found a home.

 

Mr. Cruz and Ms. Shaheen attempted to insert a provision for Nord Stream 2 sanctions into the NDAA. Messrs. Glamazdin and Kharchenko returned to Washington to rally support, stressing to lawmakers the link they saw between Nord Stream 2’s completion and Moscow’s ability to escalate conflict in Ukraine.

 

“If we lose this shield, we cannot withstand this force,” Mr. Glamazdin said he told lawmakers in meetings. “And no one will come fight for us. No NATO. No U.S. No one.”

 

The effort hit a roadblock in one committee, congressional aides said, but then was approved by a second, allowing the sanctions’ inclusion in the NDAA. Mr. Trump signed it into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

 

Allseas announced its exit from Nord Stream 2 less than an hour later, and the Pioneering Spirit sailed away from the pipeline.

 

“After maybe 24 hours of some celebration,” Mr. Glamazdin said, he and Mr. Kharchenko considered how Russia would attempt to finish the pipeline. They and their congressional allies watched the Akademik Cherskiy as it left Russia’s Far East port of Nakhodka and began its voyage.

 

In November, Congress approved the new sanctions, for inclusion in the next NDAA. The legislation is due to be approved before the current congressional session ends.

 

“A pipeline that is 95% complete is a pipeline that is 0% complete,” Mr. Cruz said. “Right now, it’s just a piece of metal at the bottom of the ocean.”

 

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HOLODOMOR – DENIAL AND SILENCES

The Cover-Up: Denials, Dismissals and Silences

Nicole Loroff, Jordan Vincent and Valentina Kuryliw

Nov 29, 2020

HREC

There are numerous reasons that help explain the lack of awareness by the public of the Holodomor and why this genocidal famine remained relatively unknown and unacknowledged until the late 1980s.

Soviet Cover-up during and after Stalinist times

  • Outright denial: the Soviet government refused offers of international aid from the Red Cross and other groups on the grounds that there was no Famine. Soviet foreign minister, Maxim Litvinov, publicly denied the existence of Famine in the USSR in 1933. Discussion of Famine, or its causes were forbidden in the Soviet press, and once the Famine was over no references were made to it in Soviet historical accounts. Moreover, citizens of the USSR were forced into silence on this issue for over half a century.
  • Disinformation: by camouflaging the extent of the Ukrainian Famine as just “food difficulties, Soviet authorities mixed small amounts of truth into their denial, thus making it more difficult to figure out what was actually happening. The Soviet media would vigorously attack any reporter or foreign dignitary who spoke out on this issue, drowning their voices in a sea of criticism. The Soviet cover-up extended into the 1980s. I n April 1983, for instance, the Soviet embassy in Canada issued a statement denouncing recent public statements at the time of the 50th commemoration as “slanders against the USSR.”
  • Potemkin villages: “Model” villages were used by the Soviets for duping foreign visitors touring the USSR into believing that all was well. A showcase Potemkin village could be set up with items and food brought in for the occasion, making the village look prosperous. Destitute villagers were removed and replaced by well-fed and loyal party members and/or performing artists. In short, these Potemkin villages were a façade. Touring westerners were taken in and reported this false reality to the world. Once the western audience left, all these goods and brought-in food were removed.
  • Revoking privileges: the Soviet government might cancel a journalist’s visa if it felt that the reporter’s work was not regime-friendly. If their reporting painted the USSR in a positive light, a journalist could be given extra privileges, such as a luxurious place of residence or preferred access. Journalists feared losing their visas because it would threaten their careers. Likewise, Western workers or businessman operating in the USSR who were critical could lose their commercial contracts with the Soviet state. This was a significant loss as at that time the USSR was importing Western goods in order to industrialize.

Western Press Coverage

  • Foreign correspondents were strongly advised by the press department of the Soviet Commissariat for Foreign Affairs to remain in Moscow and were formally barred from entering Ukraine and the North Caucuses in 1933. Even prior to this ban, Western journalists could only travel outside of Moscow if accompanied by Soviet officials.
  • Not a single Western newspaper or press agency protested publicly against the confinement of its correspondents in Moscow or investigated the reason for this extraordinary measure. The majority of reporters complied, fearing possible expulsion and losing their journalistic privileges. This limited the possibility of press coverage of this tragic event.
  • However, Walter Duranty of the New York Times was permitted into Ukraine. He reported that there was no Famine, except for some “partial crop failures.” Duranty set the tone for a good deal of Western press coverage with “authoritative” denials of starvation. He referred to the Famine as the “alleged ‘man-made’ famine of 1933.” However, according to a British Diplomatic Report, Duranty, off the record, conceded that “as many as 10 million” may have perished in the Soviet Union and that “Ukraine had been bled white.”
  • A number of other reporters, such as William Henry Chamberlin, Harry Lang, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Gareth Jones ignored the travel ban and reported on the Famine. Nonetheless, articles by such men as Duranty overshadowed the work of these honest men, clouding public perceptions.
  • In 1932 Walter Duranty received the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting. Despite his obviously and deliberately misleading accounts of the Famine, which denied the fact that it had caused widespread death, Duranty was not stripped of his Pulitzer despite a public campaign for it to be revoked. In 2003, a Pulitzer review board decided to allow Duranty to keep his award due to the fact that “… there was not clear and convincing evidence [in his earlier writing for which he received the prize] of deliberate deception.” The New York Times did issue a public acknowledgement of Duranty’s failures as a journalist [www.nytco.com/company/awards/statement.html].
  • Commenting on the failure of Western journalists to cover the Ukrainian Famine accurately, thoroughly, and with the vigour it deserved, Eugene Lyons, a correspondent for United Press International, concluded in 1937 that, “The Kremlin, in short, ‘had gotten away with it.’”

Indifference by Western Governments

  • Archival evidence (reports sent in diplomatic pouches, as well as press coverage) indicates that Western governments (notably Great Britain, Canada the United States, Germany, Italy and Poland) were informed about the Famine in Ukraine. However, they chose to adopt a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of a foreign sovereign state.
  • The US State Department was well aware of what was occurring in Ukraine, but chose to do nothing because the republic was not vital to American interests. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the American president at the time, was aiming to establish formal diplomatic relations with the USSR and did not wish to compromise negotiations. Diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in November 1933.
  • France’s former Premier, Edouard Herriot, visited the USSR and Soviet Ukraine in August and September of 1933, shortly after the height of the Famine. While in Kyiv, Ukraine’s historic capital, Herriot was impressed by its cleanliness and abundance of goods, either unaware of or ignoring the fact that Soviet authorities had staged this display; moreover the citizens of Kyiv were forbidden from shopping or appearing in public during his stay. The September 13th 1933 issue of the official Soviet newspaper Pravda, stated that Herriot “categorically denied the lies of the bourgeois press about a Famine in the Soviet Union.” Herriot’s words had a considerable effect on European public opinion.
  • Even though Ukraine’s borders were sealed in early 1933, Ukrainians managed to escape into Poland and reported to authorities there the extent of the Famine. However, Poland had signed, in July 1932, a non-aggression pact with the USSR and therefore did not publicize the knowledge or use it as propaganda against its antagonistic neighbor to the east.
  • During the 1930s Canada had only just begun conducting its own foreign affairs and in many ways still followed the actions of Great Britain. Canada’s primary interest at the time was to have a healthy trading relationship with the USSR and to prevent the Soviet from becoming the British Commonwealth’s primary supplier of grain. Therefore, the Canadian press focused more on covering harvest conditions and grain amounts than on the Famine itself. The province of Saskatchewan lobbied the federal government to protest what was happening in Ukraine, though there was ultimately no response from Canada’s federal government regarding the Famine in Ukraine.

Western Historians and Intellectuals

  • Sidney and Beatrice Webb, British founders of the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science, visited the USSR in 1932-33. Their 1935 book Soviet Communism, a New Civilization?, praised the USSR’s developments in economics and education. The Webbs viewed kulaks as lazy usurpers who did not want to contribute to society. As for the Famine issue, they believed that only partial crop failures occurred and that these shortages were not enough to cause mass starvation.
  • George Bernard Shaw was along with the Webbs, a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Shaw favourably compared the USSR to the West and noted that during his visits (to Potemkin villages) he did not see a single undernourished person. Many people refused to believe that the world’s first workers’ state had a deep and dreadful downside; in this way Shaw was typical of many Western socialists, whose basically uncritical assessment of the USSR helped maintain a rosy, idealized image of the USSR for many in the West.
  • In contrast, George Orwell, the famous British author of the dystopian 1984 and the satirical Animal Farm, was critical of those who sympathized with the Soviet Union. Specifically he wrote, “huge events like the Ukrainian Famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English Russophiles.” (Notes on Nationalism, 1945) He took reports on the famine seriously and while later fighting in the Spanish Civil War, he became further convinced that the USSR was a tyrannical dictatorship.
  • One of the most interesting examples of books denying the Holodomor was written, supposedly, by labour journalist Douglas Tottle. In his book Fraud, Famine, and Fascism: the Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard, which was published (1987) by a printing house affiliated with the Communist Party of Canada. Tottle wrote that the whole notion of the Famine was fabricated by Ukrainian nationalists. It is widely believed that the book’s contents were prepared by Soviet scholars and most historians today consider it to be Soviet propaganda.
  • Robert Conquest became renowned as a scholar for his work on terror in the Soviet Union. He also wrote the ground-breaking Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine in 1986, the first academic book in the West on the subject. It helped to publicize the Ukrainian Famine, both to academics and the general public.
  • Some key recent works dealing with the Famine include Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands (2011), Norman Naimark’s Stalin’s Genocides (2012) and The Holodomor Reader, editors Bohdan Klid and Alexander Motyl, (2012).

The Question of Genocide

  • Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the first two Presidents (Leonid Kravchuk, and Leonid Kuchma) recognized the existence of the Famine. In 2003, a resolution by the Ukrainian Parliament stated that, “the Holodomor of 1932-33 was deliberately organized by the Stalin regime and should be condemned by Ukrainian society and the international community as one of the largest genocides in world history by virtue of the number of its victims.” Viktor Yushchenko, the third president, strongly backed efforts to have the Famine recognized as an act of genocide. Under his presidency, Ukraine’s Parliament passed a law on November 28, 2006 declaring that “the Holodomor of 1932-33 is genocide of the Ukrainian people.” This provoked a reaction in Russia. On April 2, 2008, its Parliament passed a resolution in which it stressed that victims of the Famine constituted “millions of citizens of the USSR representing different peoples and nationalities living largely in agricultural areas of the country.” Today, the Russian Federation still denies that the genocidal famine occurred in Ukraine in 1932-33.
  • Ukraine’s fourth president, Viktor Yanukovych, has closely followed the Russian viewpoint on the Famine, has emphasized that the famine was a tragedy of the Soviet people as a whole. In August 2013 he issued a decree calling for the widespread commemoration within Ukraine of the 80th anniversary of this event. This marks a change in his attitude to the significance of the Ukrainian Famine for Ukraine.
  • On November 23, 2013, the 80th year, the Holodomor was widely commemorated in Ukraine and by numerous other countries that have recognized the Holodomor as genocide. It was then that the revolution of dignity evolved. Young demonstrates in Kyiv took to the streets protesting against the corrupt government of Yanukovych and his decision to not sign the Association Agreement with the European Union membership because of pressure from Moscow. It was events like the Holodomor that brought out thousands more to demonstrate and defend their right to determine their own future, and not have foreign powers dictate their fate.
  • The UN General Assembly passed a Joint Statement on the Famine on November 10, 2003 recognizing it as a “national tragedy” for Ukraine.
  • As of December 2015, a number of countries, including Canada, the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Spain, Italy and Poland, recognized the Famine as an act of genocide.

 

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HOMILY BY HIS ALL-HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE HOLODOMOR

November 28, 2020

 

Reverend Fathers, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

The twentieth century can be considered the most tragic period in human history. Besides World War One and World War Two, it has seen perhaps the biggest tragedies of humanity, some of which are well known to our human family, while others are less familiar or almost ignored. Among the latter, we should mention the Holodomor, the Great Famine in Ukraine which aimed to kill from seven to ten millions of pious Ukrainians through starvation during the most horrible years of the Soviet regime, from 1932 to 1933, and which we prayerfully commemorate on this day.

 

The Ukrainian term Holodomor emphasizes the human-made famine, the diabolic project of the Stalinist system which had as its aim a well-planned genocide of a particularly faithful people in order to eradicate Christian faith and the Orthodox Church, while, paradoxically, the Ukrainian people were peacefully benefiting from an abundant harvest. While human beings were dying from starvation, the Soviet regime was exporting their crops to the world, thus hypocritically pretending to be a prosperous country.

 

Today, we pray for the repose of the souls of these millions of pious Ukrainians, who were transferred by our Merciful Lord from the darkness of the valley of sorrow and weeping to the Land of the living, to “a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of refreshment, whence pain, grief and sighing have fled away”. Singing “eternal memory” to these faithful, we remember their tragic end and witness to all our human family that we must never forget such evil starvation, but on the contrary, we must condemn the Holodomor, so that such atrocities would not be repeated in the history of humanity.

 

As the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church has underlined, “the Orthodox Church confesses that every human being, regardless of skin color, religion, race, sex, ethnicity, and language, is created in the image and likeness of God, and enjoys equal rights in society. Consistent with this belief, the Orthodox Church rejects discrimination for any of the aforementioned reasons since these presuppose a difference in dignity between people.” For this reason, the Council has condemned “competition and enmity [which] introduce in the world injustice and inequitable access among individuals and peoples to the resources of divine creation [and] deprive millions of people of fundamental goods and lead to the degradation of human persons [and] engender ethnic, religious, and social conflicts, which threaten the internal cohesion of communities.” The

Council reminded us, “in light of such tragic circumstances, the Church’s great responsibility […] in terms of overcoming hunger and all other forms of deprivation in the world.”

 

While we commemorate with our prayers the tragedy of the Holodomor, our entire world is suffering from the pandemic of the coronavirus, which has caused until now more than one million deaths worldwide. In such circumstances, many people are asking themselves: where is God, and what is He doing in front of the suffering of human beings? The problem of evil in the world is one of the greatest challenges for faith, and the book of Job in the Old Testament tries to give us a comprehensible answer. Evil is not the creation of God. On the contrary, God is good, and everything that He has created is good and beautiful.

 

The Righteous Job, the Long-suffering, was a pious and exceptionally blessed man, so as were most of the victims of the Holodomor. But God allowed Satan to attack him, to destroy all his possessions, family and even bodily health, and as a result, Job was suffering unfairly. But Job maintained his faith and hope in God. Job believed in the mystery of the resurrection from the dead, expressing it in these amazing words: “At least there is hope for a tree – if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail”. And indeed, at the end, God restored and blessed Job, who became a figure, a typos, or if you want, a living icon of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

 

The story of Job reminds us that God is never blind nor deaf to human injustice. The end of the Righteous Job prevents us from accusing God of being malicious and responsible for the evil in the world. God is merciful and we should always put all our trust and hope in Him. As the Holy Apostle James writes: “We count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy”.

 

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, with these thoughts, we exhort you to never despair. As long as we believe in God, as far as we keep our faith in the resurrection, there is always hope. May the Risen Lord give eternal rest to the millions of righteous souls, who have died in the hope of the resurrection, as a consequence of the diabolic Holodomor, as well as due to the current tragic pandemic, and may their faith, as well as their trials, encourage and stimulate us to eradicate any kind of discrimination, injustice, violence and starvation from our world, making it better, while awaiting to see “the Kingdom of God to come with power”. Amen!

 

Ecumenical Patriarchate

 

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UKRAINE ARRIVES AT A NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION CROSSROADS

Ukraine Alert

by Miriam Kosmehl

Nov 26, 2020

 

With Ukraine’s anti-corruption reforms finally beginning to produce results, the old elites have hit back. On October 27, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine declared unconstitutional the powers of the re-booted National Agency on Corruption Prevention to verify civil servants’ asset declarations. The ruling removes a vital link in the chain of anti-corruption institutions established following the 2014 Revolution of Dignity and undermines Ukraine’s ability to investigate suspected illicit enrichment by officials.

This dramatically raises the stakes in the battle currently taking place within Ukraine over the future direction of the country. It also poses the risk of grave short-term economic and political consequences. IMF and EU support for Ukraine is closely linked to anti-corruption reforms. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus crisis and desperately needs this support.

President Zelenskyy reacted to October’s Constitutional Court ruling with a bill proposing to terminate the powers of the current composition of the court. Kyiv’s Western partners were also critical of the ruling, but stopped short of proposing a solution. For example, Council of Europe experts on the rule of law warned against terminating the judges’ mandate. Even for a good cause, they argued, violating the Ukrainian Constitution cannot lead to respect for the rule of law, which the fight against corruption pursues.

This criticism does not weigh the principle of separation of powers and institutional protection against systemic corruption. Instead, it emphasizes constitutionally guaranteed judicial independence, much as the constitutional court judges themselves do. The difference is that the former believe in the rule of law, while the latter hide behind the facade of the rule of law and judicial self-governance.

A two-thirds majority on the bench is required in order to dismiss Constitutional Court judges. As reform-minded judges are outnumbered in the court, this will never happen. Meanwhile, international experts do not provide a solution as to how the defense against systemic corruption can be effective when Ukraine’s highest court is occupied by appointees of a corrupt system.

Some of the judges that today fulminate against being pressured are also under investigation by the very same officials whose agencies they are trying to muzzle or disband. At issue is the breach of mandatory disclosure of assets and other conflicts of interest.

While Ukraine’s government has decreed that the court ruling on assets will not be put into effect, the impact has been immediate. The High Anti-Corruption Court closed several cases related to asset disclosures, including against two Constitutional Court judges. Some of the country’s first graft convictions have also been overturned. The process of verifying asset declarations has ceased.

There are hopes that the Ukrainian parliament can restore the repealed anti-corruption legislation. However, significant numbers of MPs will not vote to do so, since they are either affiliated with powerful business groups opposed to far-reaching governance reforms or personally fear being investigated by anti-corruption agencies.

The 30 or so reform-minded deputies who entered Ukrainian politics in 2014 and ensured an unprecedented level of pressure for real reforms were a new phenomenon in Ukraine. The anti-corruption laws they put together were the result of reformist legislators joining forces with civil society and Western partners. Such unity is visibly missing now. A recent hearing of parliament’s Legal Policy Committee on various draft laws addressing the controversial Constitutional Court ruling was postponed.

Among the 246 deputies of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, there are genuine representatives of the people in the true sense of the term. Nevertheless, they are a minority, and there is no hope at present of being able to pass legislation to amend the Ukrainian Constitution and re-establish the Constitutional Court. This would require support from 300 MPs and recognition of the vote by the Constitutional Court itself.  All current alternative proposals to Zelenskyy’s draft bill share similar problems. They either breach the Ukrainian Constitution or require the consent of the Constitutional Court itself.

Corruption is abuse of entrusted power. Preventing and combating abuse of power is a pre-requisite for the rule of law. Only a judiciary where integrity is the rule can pursue corruption; only reliable corruption control measures and a separation of powers can ensure judges and prosecutors do not engage in corruption; and only democratic structures based on the rule of law can ensure transparency, oversight, and independent government institutions.

How can Ukraine reach the desired state of corruption control when powerful actors capture institutions in order to safeguard their dominance? As a young and fragile democracy, Ukraine is doubly vulnerable: its own oligarchs fight reforms, while Russia uses every gateway for non-legitimate influence and has a vested interest in keeping Ukraine institutionally weak.

Corruption is present in every society but a state whose power structures are based on rules and participation can ensure that entrusted power is largely not abused. When it is the exception rather than the norm, corruption can be made transparent and pursued.

The High Anti-Corruption Court is an excellent example of how Ukraine can appoint competent judges of high integrity. An independent body that included international lawyers and experts from civil society assessed the applicants. No judges in the Constitutional Court have been through a similar procedure.

The current challenge is so immense, and the reform-oriented actors so relatively weak in terms of experience and power, that they will not succeed without outside support. The EU must help President Zelenskyy find a way out of this crisis that will promote rule of law in a long-term perspective.

Ukraine stands at a crossroads. Either the harvest will be reaped in the anti-corruption battle in the years to come, or the oligarchic system with its various powerful actors will prevail.

 

Miriam Kosmehl is a senior expert with the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s “Europe’s Future” program and works on the importance of anti-corruption for democracy and the rule of law.

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STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA ON HOLODOMOR MEMORIAL DAY

November 24, 2019

 

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Holodomor Memorial Day:

 

“Today, we remember the millions of innocent people in Ukraine who suffered and died during the Holodomor.

 

“From 1932 to 1933, the totalitarian Soviet regime launched a campaign of starvation across Ukraine. Millions died, and countless others were arrested, deported, or executed in a genocide designed to break their will.

 

“In the face of these horrors, the people of Ukraine endured, protecting their language, their culture, and their identity. In 1991, after decades of Soviet rule and oppression, they gained their independence.

 

“For too many years, the perpetrators of the Holodomor denied its existence and hid the full extent of the unspeakable suffering from the international community. It falls to each one of us to ensure their stories are never erased. Only by remembering the women, men, and children who were lost can we prevent future atrocities and defend human rights wherever they come under threat.

 

“On this solemn anniversary, I encourage all Canadians to honour the memory of the victims of the Holodomor, and reflect on the many ways in which the Ukrainian-Canadian community shapes our country for the better. Across Canada, people of Ukrainian descent make our communities richer and stronger.

 

“Today, and every day, Canada stands steadfast in our support for the people and the government of Ukraine – for their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for their work to build a bright and prosperous tomorrow.”